Special Report

America's Best and Worst States to Live In

30. Idaho
> 10-yr. population growth:
17.1% (9th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.8% (14th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.8% (25th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th highest)

Idaho’s population growth has been impressive. Over the 10 years through last year, the state’s population grew by 17.1%, ninth fastest nationwide. Idaho’s low violent crime rate may be appealing to many new residents. Around 212 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 people each year, one of the lowest rates in the country. However, residents are not especially well educated. A lack of education often limits access to good jobs and economic prosperity, and residents of states in the bottom of the liveability ranking tend to have relatively low college attainment rates. In Idaho, 25% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education.

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29. Montana
> 10-yr. population growth:
12.4% (21st highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.7% (13th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.4% (22nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (23rd lowest)

Living in Montana is not particularly harder or easier than living anywhere in the country on average. Montana residents are among the least wealthy states in nation. A typical household earns $46,328 each year, the 10th lowest annual median household income in the nation. The college attainment rate in Montana is on par with the nation. About 29.3% of adults in Montana have at least a bachelor’s degree, only slightly lower than the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults. Just 4.7% of the state’s workforce is unemployed, one of the lower rates in the country.

28. Oregon
> 10-yr. population growth:
11.5% (22nd highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.9% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.6% (14th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th highest)

In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. A typical home in Oregon is valued at $239,800, well above the national median home value of $181,200. Despite the high home values, the state’s annual median household income of $51,075 is not much lower than the national median of $53,657. Similarly, the 30.8% share of Oregon adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.

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27. Pennsylvania
> 10-yr. population growth:
6.7% (14th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.8% (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.6% (21st lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (23rd lowest)

Pennsylvania’s jobs growth of just 1.1% from 2012 through last year was much lower than the nationwide job growth rate of 3.7%. By most other socioeconomic measures, Pennsylvania is an average place to live. The state’s annual median household income of $53,234 is on par with the national median of $53,657. Also, the 29% share of adults in Pennsylvania with at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.

26. South Dakota
> 10-yr. population growth:
14.4% (16th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 3.4% (3rd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.2% (23rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th highest)

Living in South Dakota is not particularly hard, nor particularly easy. The state’s annual median household income of $50,979 is not much lower than the national median of $53,657. South Dakota is also considerably more affordable than the nation as a whole. Goods and services cost more than 12% less than they do nationwide on average. Low home values contribute to the low cost of living in the state. A typical home in South Dakota is worth $142,300, well below the national median home value of $181,200.